Father of Eco-hydrology Awarded Stockholm Water Prize

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, March 22, 2002 (ENS) - The winner of the 2002 Stockholm Water Prize is Venezuelan hydrologist Professor Ignacio Rodríguez-Iturbe of Princeton University in the United States. Announced today to mark World Water Day, the $150,000 Stockholm Water Prize is presented by the Stockholm Water Foundation for the 12th time.

It is awarded to an individual, institution, organization or company that has made the most substantial contribution to the preservation, enhancement and availability of the world's water resources.


Hydrologist Ignacio Rodríguez-Iturbe (Photo courtesy SIWI)
Professor Rodríguez-Iturbe is being honored for his scientific contributions to the understanding of the interaction between climate, soil and vegetation structures, surface water, floods and droughts. His contributions have increased understanding of the planet's climate system, where water's circulation place a decisive role, the Stockholm International Water Institute said.

His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden is the patron of the Stockholm Water Prize and will present the award to Professor Rodríguez-Iturbe at a ceremony in the Stockholm City Hall on August 15, during the annual World Water Week in Stockholm.

In explaining why they chose the Venezuelan hydrologist as the 2002 prize winner, the Nominating Committee wrote, "Professor Ignacio Rodríguez-Iturbe is awarded the 2002 Stockholm Water Prize for lasting contributions to surface hydrology. With scholarship, creativity, enthusiasm and inspiration he has been in the forefront of the scientific evolution that placed hydrology in the fellowship of Earth Sciences."

A teacher, lecturer and author, Professor Rodríguez-Iturbe's ability to build bridges between different scientific disciplines has distinguished his career.

Born in Caracas, Venezuela 60 years ago, Rodríguez-Iturbe is now a citizen of both Venezuela and the United States. He is the first South American to receive the Stockholm Water Prize.


Caroni River in Professor Rodríguez-Iturbe's native land, Venezuela (Photo courtesy Luke Mastin)
After decades of mathematical and theoretical breakthroughs, Rodríguez-Iturbe defined a new scientific field - eco-hydrology - the interaction of the atmosphere and the hydrology with plants and soil in a natural system.

In-depth studies within this new field now constitute a new scientific front within hydrology and ecology. Results of research in this area will expand the understanding of global carbon cycles and climate variation.

During the 1970s Professor Rodríguez-Iturbe developed a mathematical model for long term extremes of flood and drought that has been used extensively throughout the world, for example, in forecasting river flows and variations in water levels.

Professor Rodríguez-Iturbe contributed to the development of methods to quantify the accuracy and value of hydrologic data. This concept is now adopted in hydrological and meteorological services. It has been used in the United States, Canada and Great Britain to evaluate the utility of their data collection systems.

In the mid-1970s, he introduced "Bayesian approaches," a mathematical tool to combine information from many different sources which have varying degrees of accuracy. This was initally used to improve different models for river flows and to predict the likelihood of extreme hydrological events. The approach is now adopted in many Earth Sciences, to combine outputs from different weather or climate models, for instance, or as a way of integrating models and opinions for environmental risk assessment.


Professor Rodríguez-Iturbe in a relaxed moment (Photo courtesy Government of Venezuela)
In the 1980s and through the 1990s, Professor Rodríguez-Iturbe and his collaborators reformulated theories on the formation of river basins. Through work that showed that nature transports water and sediment out of the watershed in the most energy efficient way possible, he was able to establish equations that, once solved, predicted the drainage pattern that nature will produce under different climatic and geologic conditions.

The Stockholm International Water Institute, a scientific, technical and awareness building organization, contributes to international efforts to combat the escalating global water crisis by facilitating research, raising understanding and stimulating action on world water issues.

The institute administers the Stockholm Water Prize, Stockholm Junior Water Prize, Stockholm Water Symposium, Stockholm Water Initiative, Stockholm Industry Water Award and Swedish Baltic Sea Water Award.